Sinigang is a sour-tasting soup from the Southeast-Asian country of the Philippines. The sour taste comes from the fruits, or sampalok, of the tamarind (Tamarindus indica) tree, which is mostly found in West and East Africa and South Asia. Sinigang is served hot as a main course, and it comes in several variations.
Apart from sampalok, the basic sinigang ingredients are usually water spinach, the corm of a taro plant, green finger pepper, diced tomatoes, cut onions, chopped ginger, trimmed fresh green string beans or yard long beans, salt, oil and water. The sampalok must be boiled in water until the fruits’ shells begin to crack. Then they are pulled out of the pot to cool, the shells are removed, and the juice is drained and transferred into the stock. The resulting liquid, which is set aside, is known as the tamarind soup base.
Meanwhile, the onions are fried in vegetable oil in a pan until turned translucent. Then the tomatoes and ginger are added, with salt and pepper for seasoning. After about five to 10 minutes, the tamarind stock can be introduced. This is brought to a boil, and then simmered for about 15 minutes. Finally, the water spinach, taro and green beans are added to the pot. About 30 more minutes is needed to make sure that all of the ingredients are soft and tender.
Certain meats are added to sinigang and are usually browned along with the onions. The most commonly used meat is pork; other types of meat used include fish such as tilapia or milkfish, shrimp, chicken and beef. Sinigang is sometimes classified according to the type of meat used to prepare it. There are certain variations of the food, though, that are named after other ingredients, such as miso sinigang, which includes the Japanese seasoning made out of fermented rice and barley or soybeans.
Although it is traditionally tamarind-based, some people base sinigang on ingredients such as citrus fruit from the Citrus microcarpa tree, raw mangoes, guava or cucumbers. These ingredients are chosen based on their ability to produce the sourness of the soup. While this attribute makes it similar to the paksiw, another dish of Philippine cuisine, the latter is based on vinegar instead. Sinigang is classified as a soup, although it is typically eaten with rice.